Nadal calls for fewer hard-court events
MELBOURNE, Australia -- A day after winning his first Grand Slam on hard courts, Rafael Nadal called on tennis officials to be mindful of the physical toll the hard surface takes on players in an ever expanding schedule.
"This calendar I am playing with this surface -- hard-court surface -- is tougher than grass or clay for the body, and all the time we are playing more on this surface," said Nadal, who beat Roger Federer 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-2 for his first Australian Open title Sunday.
"In my humble opinion, we have to change that a bit more," the Spaniard said. "I can say that because I won a grand slam on hard [courts]."
Nadal, 22, has previously won four Grand Slams on the French Open clay courts, as well as Wimbledon on grass last year.
"Before if I say that, a lot of people think 'He wants to change because he's a clay player.' But believe me, I don't think anything about if I am a clay court player or not.
"When I say this, I think about the best for the players and for the future. It's not possible to have a lot of injuries on tour like this. So we have to try to change something."
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The Australian Open marked the first time Nadal reached the final of a major on hard courts, having been knocked out in the semifinals of the Australian and U.S. Opens last year.
Even this time, he had to struggle to make the last weekend at Melbourne. He held off a fellow Spanish left-hander Fernando Verdasco in the semifinals on Friday in 5 hours, 14 minutes -- the longest match in the tournament's history.
"To play with this aggression and with this rhythm all the time from the First of January to 31st of December is impossible," Nadal said.
Nadal said he was worried the rigors of the present ATP Tour could hinder his quality of life after his tennis.
"I love [soccer] -- I can't play [soccer] right now because I am playing [tennis] -- but I would love to play [soccer] with my friends later when I finish," said Nadal, whose uncle Miguel Angel Nadal played for Barcelona and represented Spain.
"I would love to continue playing tennis and to do what I want," he added. "But if we continue to play this [many tournaments], later maybe it's going to be tough to practice sports."
Nadal, who now needs a U.S. Open title to complete a rare career Grand Slam, on Monday blamed exhaustion for his semifinal loss to Andy Murray at Flushing Meadows last year.
"Last year was tough at the U.S. Open," he said. "I arrived playing well, winning Olympics, winning Toronto, having semifinals in Cincinnati. So I was playing a high level of tennis.
"But I felt during the tournament it was going to be almost impossible to win the title because I feel too tired. Mentally and physically, I wasn't there. The semifinals especially, against Murray, I really can't move."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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2009 AUSTRALIAN OPEN
Women's singles: Serena Williams, United States
Rafael Nadal, Spain
Men's doubles: Bob and Mike Bryan, United States
Women's doubles: Serena and Venus Williams, United States
Mixed doubles: Sania Mirza and Mahesh Bhupathi, India
Official scoreboard: Scores
Slam Central: Follow all the Slam action